Part Time Study Distorts Student Attrition Rates in Engineering Programs

Publisher:
University of Technology, Sydney
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, 2010, pp. 1 - 7
Issue Date:
2010-01
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Standard four-year full-time engineering degrees commonly take eight years when studied part-time by distance education and this can distort apparent retention and attrition rates. Recent publications indicate the national part-time annual retention rate for engineering degrees at regional universities is 62.85%. Extending this over eight years, only 2.4% of part time students who enter the program could be expected to graduate. Whilst most would agree that this graduation rate is quite ridiculous, what would be a reasonable graduation rate? This paper presents empirical data to determine the actual graduation rates achieved with a predominantly part time cohort of students at a regional university. The results highlight the inappropriateness of generic retention and degree completion models when comparing small regional universities where the majority of students are of mature age and study part time, with large urban universities where the majority of students are school leavers and are studying full time. If retention and completion rates are to be introduced as performance indicators in the higher education sector, the findings of this study have the potential to contribute to the development of appropriate models. It was reassuring that the retention and completion rates achieved at this university are significantly better than the quoted national averages.
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